As you probably know, voting opened recently for the fifteenth iteration of the CSM, an assembly of players who advise CCP on the pulse of the playerbase and on upcoming changes. Over the next couple of days, EN24 is going to spotlight as many CSM candidates as possible in order to help you — the player & voter — make up your mind about who to trust with the future of the game.
Today I had a lengthy discussion with Jurius Doctor, a streamer and YouTuber in NullSechnaya Sholupen. We spoke about data transparency, the reasons behind EVE’s low new player retention rate, and his candidacy for the CSM.
Twilight Winter: I’ll start with the same question I always do — what made you decide to run for CSM 15?
Jurius Doctor: Simple. The same thing that made me run last year — well before EVE North 2019 — this game has been having a really hard time holding onto people for years. Four years of iterations on the mechanics & shape of the NPE [New Player Experience] haven’t been the fix, and CCP seems reluctant to rely on players to do what we do best — when we try, at any rate — which is keeping people.
It’s just that EVE North gave us presentations where we were able to see, quantitatively, how bad we were doing. 21,000 a week were joining, and 1,000 were staying.
CCP claims this has gotten better, but we have no quantative substantiation of that, and as someone who works directly with creating instructional content for newbros… that’s not good enough.
TW: 20 people leaving for every person who stays — that’s a scary statistic. What do you think needs to be done to improve retention of new players?
JD: It’s not something we can lay solely at the feet of CP. There are some mechanical challenges, some processes which need addressing, and some UI and UX quality of life improvements which should be adopted, but — and I’ve said this before — the problem is 60% us. Our player culture needs to change more than CCPs development does.
CSM work with the community. I need to be in Iceland or have their ear to do both.
I’ll say it here first: if Mannbjorn, Hellmar, and the other three senior devs & leadership could guarantee me an open channel for feedback I’d drop my run for CSM.
TW: There’s quite a few big statements in there, least of all the end part, but I’m going to focus on the ‘60% us’ statement. What do you think we — the player base — an do to improve the NPE and improve retention of new players?
JD: There’s a constellation of little things we do that hurt new player retention. Some of it is how we communicate that newbros need to skill-up as people — developing situational awareness, understanding skills, regions of space — in telling them that “null sec is scary”, “don’t undock what you can’t afford to lose”, and “why weren’t you using d-scan?”
A lot of times these statements, whilst well-meaning, fail to answer questions we as capsuleers should be asking of themselves before we respond to the newbros. Questions like “has this person been set up for success?”, “do I know someone in null who can support and mentor them?”, and “has anyone worked with them to help them develop self-sufficiency in the absence of a corporation providing SRP and instruction?”
Beyond that, there are a lot of process problems:
TW: Do we have data for where we fail to retain new players? Is it after facing barriers trying to get into a corp, or before the new player ever approaches joining a corp?
JD: That’s a pivotal question. The only people who really know are CCP and we have insufficient transparency on those kind of metrics. For us to be effective in retaining people, we need to know when our initiatives are working and when we need to pivot. CCP has repeatedly said that people who join corporations are more likely to stay — in large part, because they are supported and part of a community, plus elements of the EVE effect like a sense of obligation being a commitment driver.
However, we also don’t know how many ‘bounce’ because of unclear early fundamentals, slow onboarding through a lack of instruction, poor UX design, and things that we as veteran players have become accustomed to believing is simply assumed knowledge rather than developed skill.
It’s hard to put your feet in the shoes of someone who’s where you were 4-17 years ago. And sometimes, to put your feet in the shoes of someone who never learned it, but has been playing the game for years. I get pilots who’ve been playing the game ten years tell me they’ve learned things from me they never learned elsewhere. A good example is how to select broadcast settings so only requests for shield, armor, and capacitor show for logi during fleets.
TW: So we’ve covered the new player experience, which is obviously a top priority for CCP. What other areas of the game do you think should be top priorities at the moment?
JD: If I had to pick five…
Faction warfare — it needs some serious re-tooling and love; in particular, balancing the effect of Upwell structures on the type of engagements which happen in lowsec and how it has impacted the pirate gameplay.
Upwell structures — in general, they’re too powerful as a broad stroke; I agree with Vily on the idea of tiered reinforce windows for different sizes of structures. It should be easier to kill Astrahus and Raitarus — perhaps a single reinforce at the end of armor — and harder to kill large and extra large structures. It’s a thought, but it’s not the only thing. More Flex structures to fill the middle roles and provide opportunities for content, slash the reinforce timers for mobile depots in highsec to four hours — it’ll do a lot to create killmails and clean up space.
CCP needs to finish the cleanup of code, content, and empty cups — for code, remove COSMOS missions and other broken legs of development. For content, cull the number of level 1-3 missions and cap the number of useless missions newbros need to grind to get more profitable missions. Refreshing the missions in general will do a lot for the game and for retaining existing players, but will come with changes and tools CCP has already announced. For an empty cup, either do something more impressive with the Drifters or just say “Triglavians beat them, they’re gone”. We were on a grand story arc there and it fell apart after CCP Seagull left. Drifters aren’t scary any more, they weren’t scary when they were hitting structures. It feels like an empty cup — a lot of potential but no content.
Move to a slower onboarding with the NPE and introduce under-served areas of the game — talking about wormholes and teaching newbros about them earlier in their experience, or at all — would be a start. Milestone-based NPE elements as players advance would be another.
Listen to their own people — it’s not just us that CCP has had a history of being tight-lipped with. CCP has a lot of great devs with super awesome ideas and the foundational knowledge of “how the sausage is made” to do good things — they just need to listen to them. I’ve heard it said — I won’t give up my source — that inside CCP it used to be that storyline and roadmap discussions took place with five or six individuals from senior leadership behind doors, with no cellphones and closed blinds, and what was said within was not shared with the company except on a ‘need to know’ basis. Perhaps it’s gotten better, but a quick glance at their Glassdoor reviews tells me it’s not getting that much better.
TW: Elaborating on the slower onboarding process, what do you think of like, adding D-Scan and player corps as concepts within the onboarding process?
JD: For sure, another idea would be as players gain the ability to sit in newer ships, upskill into new mechanics etc, introduce a mini NPE element which covers some of the mechanics and fundamentals of how the new thing works. For example, a short video on piloting your fighters when you get into carriers, or on cloaks when people train the Cloaking skill for the first time.
Iterative, continual, objective-based learning.
TW: That’s an interesting idea, so like an ongoing tutorial no matter how far the player gets in the game.
JD: Precisely that.
TW: You put faction warfare very high on your list, how would you go about refining that?
JD: I’m honestly the wrong person to ask, because I’m not a lowsec candidate. I’ll defer to Insidious Sainthood, Kalen Tsero, or one of the other specialists, but I think a good start would be:
Another idea that occurred to me is re-tooling FW plexes with improvements and lessons learned from Abyssal deadspace PvP.
TW: Your campaign literature makes a big point about CCP transparency, especially around the roadmap. What level of detail would you like to see on that?
JD: Login credentials to their corporate domain and read rights to their change management system and knowledge management system. I’m being facetious, of course.
For the community, there’s a lot we can do with dashboards and data aggregation which will feed the kind of transparency we need without violating privacy. I work for a Canadian managed services provider — an outsourced helpdesk — as a sysadmin. We have dashboards that tell us everything from when you last bought printer paper to when your computers are going to go out of warranty to how often you call us with a password reset request.
Dashboards can be used to serve valuable aggregated data on community behavior, retention, engagement, and satisfaction from players at a high, general level in a miniaturized form that I’m sure the shareholders at Pearl Abyss and the CCP Games leadership themselves receive. Radical transparency and utility are the words of the day here. It doesn’t need to be real-time, and shouldn’t be because then it gets like the stock market – people watch it and panic at any little dip – but a monthly synopsis or update would be useful.
TW: Kindof like the MER, I’d imagine? You’ve suggested revisions to the Corporate recruitment tooling in game. Do you think there’s a way to do those revisions in such a way that it doesn’t cement the current state of things — with ever growing major blocs in sov null and the rest of the game feeling squeezed out?
JD: If you’re to believe the EVE Effect (I do) EVE Online is more of a complex social network set in a hard sci-fi immersion; yet, EVE Online uses almost none of the successful automation tools and algorithms of social networks.
The big blocs sucking up newbros is a reflection of those organizations spending the effort to do it, and being organized enough to support the influx, not something happening in the UI/UX.
Sure, Facebook can tell me that my coworker’s sister’s friend’s boyfriend and I go to the same meetup and should be friends… and LinkedIn can recommend to me someone I know in another person’s circle of influence in order to get introduced… Spotify and Netflix can accurately predict what movies and music I’m going to enjoy and for how long before they should offer something new … but CCP can’t tell new players where they’re likely to find friends with the same interests? No one is saying you have to take those recommendations, or that the algorithms can’t be influenced by the hyperautists… (or even inadvertently, if letting my wife on my Spotify premium is any example)… just that it’s better than we have now.
In the UI and UX side (UI is what you see on screen, UX is the process and design of actually interacting with it) corporate management hasn’t been touched in five years and is still too complicated. The design and feature management around ACLs, roles, and security groups can be simplified to be more like what people encounter with other systems — Jira, WordPress, and even Discord have decent permissions structures.
TW: So, essentially introducing ML like a social network, to help connect people to other people they’re likely to be compatible with? It definitely sounds like a fun problem for the programmers. You touched on Corporate management UI and earlier on reducing friction to new players joining Corporations. Would there be any point in CCP introducing tools for background checking within the game UI?
JD: I think that building intelligence tools for the player base which exist within the game — and again, introducing more dashboards with drill-down informatics — would be a huge boon not just to recruitment but also to FCing and content creation / culture building. Being able to see who’s been active in fleets, who played valuable non-combat roles, which JF pilots do the most runs, etc. This all lives in SeAT and other 3rd party tools, but could be done very well in-game as well, thus reducing the need for that kind of 3rd party development.
In many ways, CCP could adjust to operate more like Google — “these guys have done something really cool with stuff we made available, let’s buy them or bring it in-house”.
Another thought, unrelated directly, is the medals system which exists for Corporations and Alliances. It’s an optional system that many people do not use, and it’s very lightly touched. If that same mechanic/interface was co-opted for achievements which players could automatically unlock by reaching specific milestones, and those medals were reflected on their character info, then it could open the door for the sort of “Achievement Unlocked” completionism we see in XBox and Playstation, and pull at the drive that we enjoy in games like Skyrim.
TW: Medals are definitely under-used. Let’s talk about the makeup of the CSM. If you were to endorse one other candidate to work alongside you on CSM 15, who would it be and why?
JD: There are, last I checked, forty candidates currently running. I very strongly support Mike Azariah, and it’s why he’s number two on both ballot lists I put out — there’s a video.
That said, I think if I were going to endorse someone it would be someone who’s not running for CSM, and never will run for CSM, because they are — by choice — a neutral party. I’d recommend Laura Karpinski of Eve University, because she has the whole of the Uni and their experiences to draw on.
TW: Thanks, and lastly, can you summarize in your own words your platform for CSM and why EN24 voters should vote for you?
JD: I am not a candidate running to petition CCP for a new NPE. The NPE horse has been beaten until it’s caved in and it’s beginning to draw flies. Don’t mistake my message for trying to build a better fly trap; that’s not what I’m after.
I’m here to grow this game and the community by feeding what is best for all of us by focusing on the things which will drive the shared bottom line of both CCP and the player base: more players. More players isn’t as simple as catching people as they come in the door, it’s growing content, engagement, processes, and community so that we can scale up together and meet the needs of attracting and holding more people.
If right now we are, proverbially, like the NYC medical infrastructure straining under COVID, slamming an extra 100 million cases is going to crush us. The entire infrastructure has to scale up together to handle the higher load.
If we were somehow able to keep 500,000 new players a year instead of 50,000, what would that do to recruiting, onboarding, anomaly and signature depletion, mineral depletion, etc? Everything needs to change to support that; it’s not just the fly trap in one house – it’s the whole damn city.
TW: That would totally change the game, fundamentally. Thanks for your time, it’s been a pleasure, and good luck with your CSM candidacy.